In 1952 the area around what is now Yorkdale was considered to be isolated from the city. There was no public transportation north of Eglinton, no paved roads, no sidewalks, no evangelical church in the area - and no Yorkdale Mall! Into this environment Walter and Mary Ireland moved with their young family. Seeing lots of children in the neighbourhood, Mary went from door to door and invited them to come to Sunday School at her house and also to craft classes during the week. They came, and they brought their friends, and when there were no rooms, cubby-holes or stairways left, it was agreed a building was needed.
Walter, who was a building contractor, bought a piece of land adjacent to their home, and with the help of volunteers from Toronto assemblies, as well as families in the immediate neighbourhood, the cornerstone of Bethany Chapel was laid in 1952, the building was completed and the assembly established. They were assisted in the early ministry by many willing volunteers, including Betty Ismay (while on furlough) and Pearl Winterburn, both of whom went on to serve the Lord on the mission field.
The children's work flourished, many other activities were added and families from the neighbourhood came from time to time and some were added to the assembly. Walter continued as an elder until 1970 when they moved away from Toronto. Walter went to be with the Lord in 1987, and Mary in 1999. Bethany has been pleased to commend a number of missionaries to the Lord's work. The Lord has raised a number of Elders to lead the Chapel from time to time. We thank God for our roots - for those who have gone before and have honored the Lord here in worship and service. May we follow them as they followed Christ. (I Corinthians 11: 1).
Toronto Brethren Assembly
During the late nineteen sixties and seventies, a number of people from India were immigrated to Canada for a better life. Among them were few Christian believers from Brethren assemblies and families from Kerala-India. The early Fathers of Brethren movements in Kerala were strict in following and obeying the Bible rather than following human traditions and creed by maintaining the apostolic pattern of simplicity and scriptural doctrines. Most of the migrated brethren from Kerala were settled in Toronto, Ontario and surrounding areas and continued as members of the local brethren assemblies. However, they prayerfully recognized the need to commence a fellowship of the Indian Brethren in Toronto. The brethren (15-20) gathered together for the first time in a home in Scarborough, to remember and celebrate the Lord’s Table on the last Sunday of November 1980. These meetings continued on every last Sundays and subsequently to two Sundays a month in the afternoons, while all were attending the local Brethren assemblies. The New gathering was named India Gospel Assembly. They have invited and enthusiastically received many visiting evangelists from India and were a source of spiritual blessing and encouragement for the brethren. They continued their support of the Ministry in India financially. The Lord had provided the needed facilities for the gathering in Faith Chapel, Scarborough; Bedford Park Chapel, North York; Ontario Bible School (Tyndale college) etc. from time to time.
There are two other important events in the history of TBA; first is the starting of worship service on every Sunday. There were oppositions due to the fact that a number of Indian Brethren were attending the local assemblies in the morning. However, the Lord convinced the need for such a step and provided Bethany Chapel facilities for Sunday and Saturday afternoon meetings. By God’s grace continuous worship service on Sunday evenings was started in February 1990. Sunday school and other activities were also started simultaneously. The next important step was to have worship service on Sunday mornings. We had no facility available for morning service. For a number of brethren, it was difficult to leave the local church completely. However, the spiritual leadership recognized the importance of such a step and the Sunday morning services were started from April of 1997 at the Ontario Bible School and later in 1999 moved to a better facility at the seventh day Adventist church in Downsview and at this time there were more than 180 in fellowship. The Name of the assembly was changed from India Gospel Assembly to Toronto Brethren Assembly (TBA).
Toronto Brethren Assembly was committed to worship and remembrance of our Lord, word ministries, Sunday school, youth meetings, bible studies, sisters meeting, cottage meetings, public conventions and other evangelical outreach ministries. Meetings were conducted in English and Malayalam. As the Assembly was growing and committed to various ministries/activities, TBA prayerfully decided to buy a place of their own in the year 2000. During this time, Bethany Chapel was also praying for God’s guidance about the use of their facilities as their numbers were going down. Both assemblies, TBA and Bethany Chapel, discussed the possibility of a merger and sought God’s guidance. With God’s guidance and blessing, both assemblies merged together by the end of 2002 to become the present Bethany Chapel. Toronto Brethren Assembly has sold its property eventually and used the proceeds to renovate Bethany Chapel building and its facilities.
Financially supporting the brethren assembly work in India continues as an important mission goal for Bethany Chapel in addition to the local and international mission support. We thank God for His wonderful provisions and also for the early brethren who did not forget the teachings of our fathers when they came to a totally new country. Thank God for the sacrifices of the brethren whom the Lord brought from time to time for having the Indian Brethren Assembly testimony in Toronto. May His name be Glorified.
The year 2003 saw some important changes. After much prayer and discussion, it was agreed to merge the Toronto Brethren Assembly and Bethany Chapel, Yorkdale, as one assembly and this became officially effective on January 1, 2003. To accommodate the much larger congregation, major renovations were carried out and the building was rededicated to the glory of God in June of that year.
This merge resulted in immediate growth and through the next few years further growth as new families immigrated from India. In late 2007 a few families living in the Mississauga area moved out to start an outreach in that area (September 30th, 2007) with the blessings and financial support of Bethany Chapel.